As Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex and founder of the Invictus Games Foundation, was touring around Whistler Village last week, he stopped at one point to marvel at what the resort will offer the hundreds of wounded, injured and sick military service personnel and veterans taking part in the 2025 Invictus Games.
“‘Do you understand that you are going to be giving people an experience of a lifetime that they would never have access to otherwise?’” recalled Robyn McVicker, COO and deputy CEO of the Invictus Games. “That just did me in.”
A delegation of senior representatives from the foundation were in Whistler and Vancouver last week, alongside Prince Harry, to review operational plans and tour the venues that will host the Games from Feb. 8 to 16, 2025, the first Invictus to feature winter adaptive sports.
Locally, Whistler Blackcomb (WB) will host alpine skiing and snowboarding events; Whistler Olympic Park in the Callaghan will be home to Nordic skiing and biathlon; and the Whistler Sliding Centre will host skeleton.
Vancouver, meanwhile, will host a range of indoor sports, such as wheelchair curling, rowing, sitting volleyball, swimming, and more.
While there will be improvements made to the venues to make them more accessible for adaptive athletes, McVicker said Whistler is already well set up to host Invictus.
“We’re absolutely benefiting from the investment that has been made in Whistler over the years, and not just Vail Resorts, but also what was created for the 2010 Olympics and its legacy,” she said.
This week, Invictus announced it had finalized a partnership with Vail Resorts, WB’s parent company, a collaboration that will see the ski resort encourage more people to participate in adaptive sports through WB and the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program.
“Inclusivity and accessibility are core to our culture at Whistler Blackcomb,” said Belinda Trembath, COO and VP of Whistler Blackcomb, in a release. “Our partnership with Invictus Games Vancouver Whistler 2025 underscores the commitment we have made to these values, and we are honoured and excited to not only serve as a host venue, but to support the growth and adoption of adaptive winter sports throughout the world.”
The Games also offer an opportunity to raise awareness of the adaptive sport opportunities available locally for military veterans, an underserved market for Whistler, McVicker said.
“That’s a big community in the U.S.,” she said, highlighting the discounted Military Epic Pass offered by Vail Resorts. “Having veterans understand the access they could get to come and use one of these world-class ski resorts as part of the Vail pass, that’s a whole new market and one that isn’t hugely accessed right now.”
Part of the goal of offering winter sports at Invictus for the first time is to help participating nations develop their own winter adaptive programs. McVicker said about half of the 25 nations taking part don’t have a formal winter adaptive program for their veterans. In February 2024, Whistler will host a training camp to introduce the teams to snow sports, paid for by the foundation.
“We will work with Whistler Adaptive and Whistler Blackcomb to actually build that training program that would help them understand how they are going to equip their team with this and how they can start to build the capacity to train,” she said. “And if they don’t have snow, what can they train on? … What are the different elements that they can use for winter training all summer long in, say, Jordan?”
The Whistler Conference Centre was also recently pegged to serve as the family-and-friends area for the 2025 event, an important component of any Invictus Games.
“With Invictus, family and friends are critical to the recovery of our veterans. They play a huge part in the event,” McVicker said.
To learn more, visit invictusgames2025.ca.